The Canadian Freshwater Alliance hosted a successful webinar on Monday, March 24th entitled Water Pricing and BC’s New Water Sustainability Act. Ministry of Environment staff provided a summary of government’s Pricing B.C.’s Water discussion paper to over 70 participants including representatives of non-governmental organizations, academia, government agencies and individual citizens.
The webinar ended before there was time to answer all the questions so we thought we’d use the blog to provide more information to session participants and the broader public.
Some recurring themes we heard from the participants and other presenters included the following:
- Current rental rates in B.C. are generally lower than other jurisdictions;
- Pricing should reflect the value of the resource and provide an incentive to encourage innovation, water efficiency and conservation;
- Building language into the principles to help evaluate the impact on the water resource (quantity, quality, aquatic ecosystem, surface and ground), and setting prices to reflect the impact may be useful.
Questions that were asked during the webinar:
1. Are the seven water principles on page 3 of Pricing B.C.’s Water listed by order of priority?
No. The principles are not arranged in any priority. Pricing water is complex and involves many considerations. Which principles are most important to you? How would you rate or order their relative importance?
2. Why do individual domestic users pay a proportionally higher amount per unit volume relative to other users?
Most individual domestic licensees (not referring to the 90% of British Columbians who are connected to a municipal system) pay a minimum annual fee of $25 for the right to access water for household use. Although the volume per licence is relatively low (~2,000 litres per day), a minimum annual fee is required to recover the cost of administering the approximately 25,000 domestic licences on an ongoing basis.
3. Why are water rental rates for agriculture, aquaculture, mining and petroleum-related uses separate from industrial and commercial uses?
The current water pricing structure was brought into effect in 2006. At that time, approximately 90 different water use purposes were consolidated into the current sector-based rates that are also reflected on page 2 of the Pricing B.C.’s Water discussion paper. As described in the paper, government is contemplating changes to the current approach to water pricing and would like to hear your views.
4. What water management activities does government intend to cover under a new water pricing structure?
It is envisioned that revenue from fees and annual rentals would cover the costs of licence administration as well as related science, planning, monitoring, enforcement, public engagement and new information systems that would be needed to support implementation of the new Act.
5. Will the proposed new pricing rates be released for public review?
Government is inviting comment on the principles to inform water pricing. There are currently no plans to release specific pricing options for public review.
Does this information raise other questions or comments? Does it provide more clarity on how you think the principles should be applied? Share your ideas by leaving a comment on the Blog.